A Private Dinner with Al and Penny Baumer, Crystal Hot Sauce

by gerard on June 12, 2014


In April of this year, I received a phone call from a client who wanted to plan a private dinner in her home in honor of Al and Penny Baumer, owners of Crystal Hot Sauce. The party was to be held in early May, giving us plenty of time (almost a month) to plan a fabulous dinner that would both delight and impress her guests – eight people who know food! It goes without saying that expectations were high and every detail mattered.

The first step in planning a private dinner party is to visit with the client in their home. It is important for me to preview the kitchen and dining area prior to discussing the menu so that I can understand what is possible given the kitchen layout and available equipment. The client’s kitchen was beautiful with plenty of counter space and a commercial-grade stove – anything was possible in this kitchen! An added bonus was that the kitchen was open to the dining area, which would allow the guests to watch the preparation of the meal while they enjoyed cocktails and hors D’oeuvres.

Over the next few days we discussed several possibilities for the menu, both on the phone and over email. I had developed a dish many years ago called Crystal Chicken and was excited that at last I had the opportunity to present it to the owners of the hot sauce for which it was named! Every detail was planned from cocktails and hors D’oeuvres to the place settings. The Baumers provided wine for the meal and one of our guests offered to prepare dessert – a rich and luscious chocolate mousse. The client had most of the china and serving dishes required for this dinner, however, I would still need to bring a few pieces of my own as well as my coolers, packed with all of the food purchased for the dinner.

After much discussion, we settled on a menu:

  • Cured fatty Scotch salmon for Gravlax, presented with paper thins slices on pumpernickel bread
  • Crusty roast pepper, mozzarella and tomato crostinis
  • Fried Green Tomato on a Crystal Hot butter sauce with a cool Crab meat Ravigote
  • A rendition of Paul Bocuse’s Mussel Soup Provencal, requested by the host
  • Julienne of roasted beets with a warm Chevre cake with baby lettuces and a Mandarin orange creamy vinaigrette
  • Crystal Chicken

A week out from the party, I cured the salmon and prepared my shopping lists. Because my emphasis is always on the freshest local ingredients, I shopped and packed my coolers with everything needed for the evening on the day before the party. I stayed in constant communication with the client to ensure that no detail was overlooked and that when I arrived at her home at 3pm on the day of the party to begin preparing the meal, everything from linens and silverware to butter and salt was on hand. My client worked with me on the preparation of the dining area, including the design of the floral arrangements and at 6:30pm, everything was in place. Promptly at 7, my client welcomed Al and Penny Baumer into her home knowing that every detail was perfect! The dinner proceeded at a leisurely pace – it was comfortable and intimate in the way only a dinner served in a private home (rather than a restaurant,no matter how fine!) can be!

Penny Baumer, co-owner of Crystal Hot Sauce
A private dinner for Al and Penny Baumer, owners of Crystal Hot Sauce
Gerard Maras discussingthe Crystal Dinner menu with Al and Penny Baumer
The hostess, toasting a perfect dinner party prepared by Gerard Maras.
Gerard Maras, plating the Crabmeat Ravigote with Crystal Hot Butter Sauce
Mussel Soup Provencal by Gerard Maras
Roasted Beets with Warm Chevre Cake by Gerard Maras
Crystal Chicken by Gerard Maras

Al and Penny were so delighted with the Crystal Dinner Party that they want to share it with a wider audience! That evening, it was decided to recreate the experience with guests at The New Orleans cooking Experience! Please join us on June 23 for a dinner hosted by Al and Penny Baumer, who will talk about their history and that of Louisiana’s favorite hot sauce – Crystal. Come join us for this special cooking class. Make reservations early as seating is limited to 12 guests. Contact Judy Jurisich at the New Orleans Cooking Experience for reservations.

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